Sunday, 20 July 2014

have you ever?

i'd offered to make some cupcakes to take to a friend's house warming party on the weekend..i know..that's no big deal..so how come then i got there two hours later than i'd planned..part of the problem was with how i cook..instead of making something i'd cooked before i jumped in with no idea of the final outcome..the other problem was that i'd underestimated how long it would take me..i don't know whether it's because i think i'm better than i really am or that i just have really poor judgement..to make matters worse my cakes really needed to be served on a plate and eaten with a fork so they were unsuitable for the party that my friend had had catered for with delicious and elegant looking finger food..i cringed as i watched people trying to eat my squashy oozy cakes..and i've no idea of how they tasted either because by the time i got there i was so wound up that i couldn't eat a thing..not even all the other delicious looking food on offer..

lemon curd and almond praline cupcakes
tea with hazel
makes 12



125 gms self raising flour sifted
30 gms almond meal
155 gms castor sugar
155 gms unsalted butter
2 eggs
75 mls milk
1 teaspoon (tsp) vanilla extract

lemon curd*

3/4 cup castor sugar
60 gms unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
100 mls lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon juice

almond praline

1/2 cup castor sugar
2-3 tablespoons (tbs) water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup slivered almonds


~ cream butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy
~ beat in eggs one at a time 
~ add flour, almond meal, milk and vanilla and beat until mixture is smooth
~ place mixture in a 12 hole cupcake case lined tin and bake at 180 deg c for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and cooked in the centre 

lemon curd

~ beat sugar and egg yolks until creamy and thick
~ place in saucepan with other ingredients and cook over a pan of simmering water stirring constantly until just coming to the boil and the mixture is thickened
~ cool before use

almond praline

~ place almonds on baking paper lined tray and cook at 180 deg c until slightly browned
~ set aside to cool
~ place water and lemon juice in a saucepan and stir until the sugar crystals dissolved brushing down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in boiling water
~ once the sugar has dissolved increase heat and cook until the sugar turns a medium caramel colour
~ remove from heat and immediately pour over the almonds
~ once cooled process the almond toffee finely leaving a few small pieces of toffee


~ remove a large conical circle of cake from each cupcake
~ trim the cake off close to the cake top, cut shapes from the tops (i used heart and flower shapes), and dust the shapes with icing sugar
~ fill each cupcake to the top with curd
~ sprinkle the curd generously with almond praline
~ dab a small amount of lemon curd on the bottom of each shape and place one in the centre of each cupcake

note: * adapted from stephanie alexander's lemon curd recipe in 'a cook's companion'

have you ever? come on..please tell me i'm not the only one..

Thursday, 10 July 2014

frugal friday

there's a wonderful independent grocer/green grocer not far from where i live..it's not one of those super sophisticated places where to shop there comfortably you need to get dressed in your finery, have a manicure and a blow dry..rather..it's more laid back..

i like shopping there for several reasons..for one thing it's a family run business and as such the shop has an intimate and friendly atmosphere..and they stock a great range of products some of which are not available in the conglomorates that are threatening to take over the country..for instance i can get trachana and pasta for pastichio there..and they're not caught in a time warp because they stock a variety of spelt and gluten free products..one thing i particularly like are the huge bins they have out the front of the shop which are laden with seasonal fruit and vegetables..most of it is not of conglomerate supermarket quality..but it is still good quality..for instance yesterday i bought new seasons apples and oranges..now..yes..some of the apples had the occasional branch mark, they weren't all uniform in size and some were misshapen but otherwise they were perfectly fine..same with the oranges..navels and valencias were mixed up together and some had too thick skin but they're easily avoided..they were $0.98 and $0.78 a kilo respectively..and i bought a 2 kilo bag of slightly brown skin bananas for $2..i ate one later..perfect..not soft at all..and even if one or two do go a bit soft before i can eat them all au naturale i'll just make smoothies with them..and they had lovely large fennel bulbs that i bought for a $1 each..they also had 5 kilo bags of potatoes for $2 but i didn't get one because i'd already bought a bag for the same price a few weeks earlier..ten kilo sacks of onions rarely cost more than $6 there so i always buy them this way and i rarely have any rot..i just keep them in a cool place and if any start to sprout i just use those in stock..

it never ceases to surprise me that anyone would choose to pay more at a conglomorate supermarket when this shop is only 100 metres away..i've done a rough and ready calculation and worked out that the fruit and vegetables i bought yesterday cost a third of what it would have cost me at the supermarket..and i wonder if some of the people shopping in the supermarket are also those who find that food prices are increasing..go figure!

roasted fennel and potato soup
tea with hazel


1 large female* fennel bulb
6 -8 small potatoes**
3 medium onions** 
4-6 garlic cloves (i used homegrown)
2 teaspoons (tsp) fennel seeds*** 
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (i used my own homegrown, dried flakes)
2 litres stock**** (i used homemade)
salt and pepper
olive oil
extra chilli flakes or tabasco


~ remove stems from fennel bulb, retain fronds and cut bulb into thick slices
~ cut potato and onion into medium chunks
~ place fennel, potato, onion, garlic, fennel seeds, and chilli flakes in a large shallow baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
~ bake at 180 deg c until the vegetables are starting to caramelise
~ remove vegetables to a saucepan along with the stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are soft
~ puree the soup with a stick blender or in a blender
~ serve garnished with fennel fronds, a dusting of chilli and a drizzle of olive oil


*       they're tastier..or so they tell me..
**     the potatoes and onions in the bags i'd purchased were small to medium in size
***   i used seeds collected in summer from plants that have naturalised in parts of the dandenongs
**** i retained the carcass and the vegetables from boiling an organic and free range chook for soup stock and i roasted and reboiled both to create a second but just as flavoursome stock


not including electricity and gas costs this soup, which would be enough to feed about 6-8 people, cost about $1.30..add a loaf of homemade sourdough and you've got a very cheap and nutritious meal..

happy weekend one and all

Saturday, 5 July 2014

galactoboureko with fortified wine and spice poached crab apples

bougatsa, galatopita and galactoboureko are some of my favourite greek sweets..whenever i go back to greece i make a beeline for a little hole in the wall shop in pagrati athens for bougatsa (they also sell spinach, meat and cheese pie)..i always worry that the shop might have disappeared but it's always right there where it's always been and with the same pies that i've loved since i was living there in the 70's..

they're great pies to eat for a quick breakfast on the run..when you go there the generous sized pieces of pie are already cut from larger pies that are cooked off site on huge trays..and when you order a piece the man working there..it's always a man..wraps the pie ordered in greaseproof paper and pops it into a paper bag..the exchange of paper bag and money is so quick and easy..i don't remember the exact cost but they're not expensive and they're really good quality..

while i love the quick and easy on the go bougatsa my favourite way of eating it is sitting down at a table either in a zacharoplasteion..cake shop..or in a bougatsaria..where they only sell bougatsa and coffee..with a glass of cold water and a greek coffee with 'ligi' zakeri..a little sugar......bougatsaria aren't everywhere in greece though..in my travels i once came across a small seemingly anachronistic bougatsaria in soufli in the north east of greece early one morning while i was waiting for a bus..it was the only place open at the time and it was, again, run by a man..it had the best bougatsa ever..and i also know of a couple of iconic bougatsaria in ioannina where my former husband comes from..i'm sure there are many others that i don't know of..yet..the reason i like to eat bougatsa at zacharoplasteia or bougatsaria is because of the way it's served on a plate, cut up into small bite sized pieces and dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, and eaten with a desert fork..it's so relaxing eating it this way..

as i said earlier bougatsa is often consumed on the run and often for breakfast whereas galatopita and galactoboureko are eaten sitting down in a cafe (or it's bought to take home or as a gift) and it's eaten later in the day..greek people don't tend to eat a sweet course after a meal but they do love to linger in a cafe with a sweet little something and a coffee in the afternoon or at night..another difference is that bougatsa is thin..about one to two centimetres thick..but galatopita and galactoboureko are thicker and can range from between four to six or more centremetres thick..and instead of being dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon as bougatsa is both galatopita and galactoboureko are doused generously in a citrus or floral sugar syrup...and incidentally the only difference i can ascertain between galatopita and galactoboureko is that galatopita has filo on the bottom only and galactoboureko has filo on both top and bottom..anyway..whichever way they come they are all delicious..to me..and most greeks!

tea with hazel
makes 12 generous sized serving pieces


30 gms butter
200 gms fine semolina
2 litres milk (i used unhomogenised organic milk)
1 1/4 cups sugar* (or more or less according to taste)
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla (i used my own)
10-12 filo pastry sheets
melted butter


~ in a large saucepan melt butter and once bubbling add semolina and stir for a few minutes to lightly toast and then take off heat
~ slowly add milk while whisking to prevent lumps forming
~ return the saucepan to the heat and cook until thickened and just coming to the boil
~ remove from the heat and add sugar, vanilla and, while stirring well to prevent the mixture curdling, slowly add the eggs
~ pour mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps
~ set aside to cool
~ butter a 32 cm x 22 cm x 4cm tin and layer with 6 buttered filo sheets allowing the excess to hang over the sides of the tin
~ pour the semolina custard in the tin and layer with a further 4-5 buttered filo sheets folded in half
~ bring the over hanging filo sheets over the top filo layers and brush the top with butter
~ spray the top with water to help prevent the filo lifting during baking
~ bake at 180 deg c for 40-50 minutes or until the top is browned and the custard set


* a greek cook would typically use a lot more sugar in this type of recipe than i did

fortified wine and spice poached crab apples

fortified wine and spice poached crab apples 
tea with hazel


1 kg organic crab apples* stalks intact
500 mls fortified wine (i used pfeiffer topaque**)
1-2 tablespoons sugar or more according to taste
1/2 to 1 cinnamon quill
3-4 cloves
2 cumquats*** (or use orange peel with white pith removed)


~ place wine, sugar, spices and cumquats in a large, shallow saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar
~ once the sugar has dissolved bring to the boil, reduce the heat to barely a simmer, add just enough crab apples to form a single layer, cover with a cartouche (to avoid too much evaporation), and cook gently, lifting the paper and turning the fruit every so often so that the crab apples cook evenly
~ remove any crab apple as soon as starting to soften
~ cook the remaining crab apples in batches in the same manner
~ refrigerate and use within about two weeks


*     i used malus gorgeous crab apples picked from my own tree
**   i used this wine because i rarely drink and i had half of a bottle languishing..i didn't have enough so i opened another bottle! the wine was gifted to me by my daughter kat who had been gifted the wine by the wine maker who is a friend of hers
*** yeah i've got thousands of them so i use them in everything possible

serving suggestions

~ serve as the greeks typically do with a flavoured sugar syrup or do as i did and serve the galactoboureko with just a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon, or, both that and some poached crab apples and the delicious fortified wine and spice syrup..the crab apples have a slight tartness which compliments the sweetness of the custard and syrup..either way is good..to me..not sure if most greeks would approve of me mucking around with an already great recipe..

dedicated to my boy nicholas who left for greece this week
and to his girl ruby who joins him in a month
they worked so hard to make their trip happen
so proud
so much love

Sunday, 22 June 2014

cumquat cake

i pruned my cumquat tree yesterday..it's looks so much better now that its heavily fruited lower branches have been removed because the bit of trunk now showing gives the garden a bit of depth and you can see my not so discrete anymore for eating stinging nettle patch..i don't know why it took me so long to work out that a good prune was in order because its demeanor's been bugging me for quite some time..

i find pruning's always a bit of a mixed blessing..there's the good bit where i like to stand back and admire my handy work and congratulate myself on another job sorted..but then slowly my eyes dare wander towards the mountain of prunings and suddenly my mood changes..in this case there was the old classic pruner's branch disposal dilemma to contend with as well as the dozens of cumquats that needed removing from the branches..

dealing with the branches was easy..i dragged them round the back and i'm ignoring them..for the moment..i made a cumquat cake for afternoon tea with some of the cumquats..such a lovely treat to have with a cup of tea after all my hard work..i pruned my roses too..probably a bit early but i'm one of those people who, once they get a pair of secateurs in hand, are a gardening menace..anyway, to use up the stash of cumquats i've ended up with i'd have to make about a dozen cumquat cakes..even i can't eat that much cake..

cumquat cake
recipe adapted from here


300 gms deseeded cumquats
150 gms golden castor sugar
150 gms ground almonds (commercially packaged)
50 gms ground almonds (not too fine with skin on)
100 gms dessicated coconut
1/2 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate
2 tablespoons self raising flour
3 eggs


~ mix all dry ingredients together
~ process cumquats until pureed
~ whisk eggs and sugar until pale and frothy
~ gently mix dry ingredients and cumquat puree into egg and sugar mixture with a metal spoon
~ pour into greased and lined 22-23 cm spring form tin
~ bake 180 deg c for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake just comes out clean


~ this cake has a slight bitterness which i like and it's not very sweet so the cumquat syrup (i used my cumquat cordial which is thick enough to use as a syrup) i served it with was a welcome addition..and it's versatile and quick and really easy to make..

happy monday monday everyone..x

Saturday, 21 June 2014

dandelion, stinging nettle and radish leaf salad

i don't have any typical salad greens such as lettuce, rocket or spinach growing in my garden at the moment
seeds planted in april didn't germinate
and i haven't managed to plant any more
but they're lots of stinging nettles, new dandelion leaves (after autumn pruning) and leaves from freshly picked radishes

to make the salad

boil the dandelion leaves for five minutes in a few tablespoons of water
add radish leaves and cook briefly
then add nettles and boil for a minute or so
drain leaves over a bowl
pour boiled green's water into a glass
and drink
dress the greens with lemon juice, olive oil and salt
and eat

happy winter solstice

Sunday, 15 June 2014

that's how i like it!

simple and rustic
that's how i like it
fussy architectural food landscapes
 smoke and mirrors chemistry experiments
three acts of shakespeare on a plate
are not my thing
and forget about 
latest craze religious fervour food
i'd rather have
a toasted cheese sandwich* 

row 1: hummous with homegrown tomato and mint
row 2: spelt buttermilk pancakes with water poached pears and fresh raspberries and 
roasted pumpkin and capsicum soup with homemade stock
row 3: individual moussakas
row 4: herbs de provence (a gift from france) and cheese scone and 
minted haloumi with the last of summer's tomatoes and cucumber
and lots of different loaves of bread..

note * but it would have to be good bread, preferably home made sourdough, and the best cheese i can afford

what's your thing?

Saturday, 7 June 2014

may in my garden

i don't think i'd fully appreciated how much work i actually do in my garden until i came back from a recent two week trip..nettles, flanders poppies and borage plants had literally taken over my front garden as well as the degraded and in need of resurfacing gravel paths..most of the seeds i'd planted a week or two prior to leaving hadn't come up..kikuyu was sprouting long tentacles from next door's lawn and from my own lawn into my various garden beds..and my broccoli seedlings had a sporty polka dot look from being eaten by cabbage moth larvae..but my neighbour's father had mown my lawns..they'd well and truly needed mowing before i went away but i'd not had time..thanks ray..you're a legend!

the hard yakka

~ broad beans, radish, onion, oak leaf lettuce, carrot and sweet pea seeds directly in soil (only the broad beans and radish survived my trip away)
~ ruby chard, dill and mustard greens in a seed raising box (the chard survived)
~ broccoli and pansy seedlings
~ relocated self sown cornflower seedlings


~ lemon verbena

~ eggplant bushes even though they were still producing flowers
~ parsley and rainbow chard
~ lots of the ever over abundant nettles, flanders poppy and borage 
~ invasive kikuyu from my next door neighbour and from around vegetable garden beds that threaten to take over my hard won vegetable garden beds
~ carnations from the window box 

~ vegetable garden bed where parsley and rainbow chard were removed and a section of the same garden bed that i have been trying to rehabilitate with compost and manure (it was covered in concrete up until a few years ago)

~ continue to compost all kitchen scraps and to cut up and compost all garden waste apart from invasive bulbs such as oxalis
~ composted and manured window box for resowing

extended new vegetable garden bed
~ i covered the remaining area in another op shop purchased woollen blanket ($4) and started adding kitchen waste and cut up garden material

the rewards

~ green beans (blue lake)..the plants are still producing a handful of beans every few days, radishes, egg plant, spring onions, chilli and rainbow chard
~ parsley, basil, celery, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, chives, lemon balm, comfrey, pineapple sage, lavender, nettles, borage flowers, lilac flowers, marigold petals, violets, roses, hollyhock flowers, nasturtium leaves and flowers
~ rhubarb, the last of the pomegranate, cumquat and alpine strawberries

more hard yakka

need to
~ pick chillies for drying
~ plant peas, spinach, coriander, beetroot, mustard greens and potatoes (check seasonal suitability first)
~ plant a manure crop on bed where parsley and rainbow chard were removed and in the area being rehabilitated
~ replant onion, lettuce, carrot and sweet pea seeds 
_ replant carnations in window boxes
~ finish tidying garden edges
~ stay on top of weeding
~ remove bean plants when production ceases
~ pick crabapples
~ transplant lemon verbena and black currant bush
~ mow lawn (i use a hand mower)

rainbow chard, rice and lemon soup*
tea with hazel


1-2 bunches of young rainbow chard well washed
6 spring onions cut fine
3 celery stalks cut fine
6 cloves garlic cut fine
1/2 cup chopped parsley 
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/4 cup torn mint leaves
1 cup arborio rice
2 litres stock (i used homemade)
juice of 1/2 lemon per serve
olive oil
salt and pepper


~ remove stalks from chard and cut into approximately 2 cms pieces and cut leaves to desired size
~ in a large saucepan heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, add chard stalks, celery stalks, and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes
~ add rice and cook for a few more minutes
~ add stock and bring to the boil and cook until the rice is al dente
~ add chard and celery leaves and mint and parsley and cook until the leaves are softened
~ add salt and pepper to taste


~ drizzle each bowl with lemon juice and a little oil

rainbow chard coloured broth


* this soup was inspired by a greek dish called spanakorizo (spinach rice)..i love the flavour of dill but i didn't have any growing so i added mint instead
** all the greens were from my garden

see you next month for 'june in my garden'